Fifth Disease (Human parvovirus/Erythema Infectiosum) is a minor, contagious viral illness that commonly affects children aged 5 to 15 years. It is essentially like a cold or minor flu that transitions into a red rash that suddenly appears on the child's cheeks and may spreads to other areas. The “slapped face” appearance tends to looks more painful than it is for kids. Sometimes the red cheeks will appear without being preceded by cold symptoms.
What are Fifth Disease symptoms?
Fifth Disease symptoms include a rapid onset of a warm, red rash that first appears on the cheeks, then threads to the trunk, arms and legs within 1 to 4 days. Mild fever, headache, sore throat or congestion might precede the rash for a few days. Rash may reappear after fading with exposure to sunlight. Some kids infected with Fifth Disease experience no symptoms at all.
Often confused with…
Chicken pox or measles, or a cold or the flu prior to the rash developing. Although human parvovirus 19 is responsible for this illness, it is unrelated to the parvovirus animals contract and spread.
How's it spread?
Fifth disease is usually spread through infected snot and saliva during coughing or sneezing. In very rare occurrences, it may also be spread from mother to fetus which can cause fetal anemia and even miscarriage. Most pregnant women who are otherwise healthy, however, will have no serious complications to herself or her fetus.
How long til Fifth Disease symptoms appear?
Symptoms usually appear within 4 – 20 days from the time Fifth Disease is contracted.
How long are you contagious?
Kids are only contagious before the characteristic rash appears, not afterwards. There's no need to keep kids who are otherwise feeling fine out of school once the rash appears.
How to prevent it?
Fifth Disease can best be prevented through good hygiene. This includes frequent, thorough hand washing and disposal of snotty tissues. Follow your standard wellness routine for cold/flu including Vitamin D, C, and anti-viral herbs such as echinacea and astragalus or your favorite Chinese herbal formula. Speak to your practitioner to insure you're using effective measures for your family.
How to treat it?
Fifth disease is usually so mild, there's no need for much treatment other than plenty of rest, good hydration and a healthy diet that's rich in nutrients. From a Western Medicine approach, you can reduce fever, aches or discomfort with ibuprofen in moderation and only if your child is very uncomfortable. Some natural remedies include:
Oatmeal or baking soda baths if there is discomfort from the rash.
Echinacea which has antiviral properties and may help improve lymphatic congestion.
In Chinese medicine, Fifth Disease would most often be diagnosed as a wind-heat invasion, and herbs would be administered to dispel the wind, clear heat, and protect the interior from the invasion from going deeper into the body.
Is Fifth Disease making its way through your child's school this year? Let me know in the comments.